Historical Plaque Properties


John McCulloch - Auctioneer & Tavern Keeper
155 Elizabeth Street
Stratford, ON

John McCulloch was the second of eleven children born to William Frederick McCulloch (1813-1870) and Elizabeth Hamilton (1812-1894), both of what is now Northern Ireland. Both parents came from prestigious families. The entry in the Belfast Newsletter of Sept. 9, 1834 concerning their marriage described William Frederick as the grandson of the late General McCulloch, of the Honorable East India Company’s Service, and Elizabeth as the eldest daughter of Surgeon Hamilton, of Ormagh. Their first five children were born in County Tyrone, Ireland.


Upon the McCulloch family’s arrival in Stratford in 1842, William (W.F.) began accumulating riverfront land. His 100-acre estate, The Grange, extended from Ontario Street to what is now Delamere Avenue, and from the railway lands on the east (Romeo Street) to Front Street/Waterloo Street, and on it he built a luxurious home. W.F. was instrumental in the development of Stratford, building many of the first mills, buying others, and operating as a distiller and lumber merchant. He donated land (McCulloch’s Hill) that he owned north of the river near the present-day Falstaff School, and the first county buildings were built there in 1853. In 1854-55 he was elected Reeve of the five-man council, representing the new Village of Stratford on County Council. He was later elected as Mayor of the Town of Stratford in 1860-1862. In 1868 the Board of Trade was incorporated, and W.F. served as the first president.


John’s siblings continued in their father’s footsteps as prominent citizens and/or entrepreneurs. James Alexander became a lawyer in Stratford, and served as mayor in 1871-1872.  His brother William Frederick (Frederick William) operated a hardware and paint store on Ontario Street in the 1870s, eventually moving to Victoria, B.C. where he was an assayer (analysis of ores and metals). It is not clear what his brother Richard S. did, but it appears that he ended up in Colorado. Alexander was a merchant. Henry Hamilton was assistant postmaster in Stratford, moved to Manitoba in the early 1880s, then to Calgary, and then Moose Jaw, where he opened a private bank with his brother-in-law. Henry Hamilton returned to Calgary, where he joined the Railway Mail Service, eventually becoming the superintendent of the Calgary division. John’s sister Margaret married William Gordon, a hotel owner and real estate broker, who served as the last mayor of the Town of Stratford in 1884-1885, and subsequently the first mayor of the City of Stratford from April to December 1885. He was mayor again in 1907-1908. John’s sister Emily married a doctor in Stratford. Jane Ann married and became a homesteader in Manitoba.


And then there was John, who built 155 Elizabeth Street in 1863-1864 on lots 60 and 61. These lots were owned by John’s brother James Alexander in 1862 - either a gift from or purchased from their father, as it was part of his extensive land holdings. John purchased the lots in 1863 and had built the house by 1864. John and his family lived in the house only until 1866, when it was sold to John Craib, a carpenter. In 1861 at the age of 23, John was listed as a wheat merchant. In the 1863 business directory John was listed as the proprietor of Palmerston House on Ontario Street. In the 1867 county directory he was listed as an auctioneer and the proprietor of the Victoria Saloon, Market Square. In 1871 and 1876 he was listed as an auctioneer. John’s life did not go well after this: in 1891 he was boarding at 184 Queen Street, and on January 20, 1904 he died destitute, a resident of the House of Refuge on Galt Street. John was buried in Avondale Cemetery with his parents and some of his siblings.


On April 18, 1860 John married Anna Seegmiller, the fourth of eleven children born to German immigrants Johann Adam Seegmiller (1807-1859) and Anna Eva Knechtel (1814-1878). She was born in Goderich. In addition to Goderich, the family lived in several communities in Waterloo County before finally settling in Stratford. (Johann) Adam started a tannery that grew into a large leather manufacturing plant. Adam invested in real estate in the city as well as in farms. He was the Treasurer of the Village of Stratford in 1854, working alongside the Reeve, W. F. McCulloch, John’s father. So, both John and Anna came from prosperous, leading families in early Stratford; however, there is some evidence that Adam became financially ruined because of difficulties with land speculators.


John and Anna had three children: Elizabeth Ann (1861-?), Peter (1862-1914?), and Amelia Martha “Millie” (1867-1942). Shortly after 1871, when the children were approximately 10, 9, and 4, Anna, her daughter Amelia, and her mother Anna Eva (and probably the two older children), left Stratford to join the Church of Latter Day Saints in Utah, arriving by train on April 2, 1872. Apparently, Anna obtained a legal divorce after arriving in Utah, although divorce wasn’t generally recognized in Ontario at that time. At this point Anna was using her maiden name. We can imagine how scandalous this situation was for her extended family back in Canada. In 1874 she married Amos Milton Musser, who eventually became a bishop in the church. In the 1880 census Anna was listed as one of two wives living with Amos Musser, and in later years she was one of four wives. She and Amos had six children together. Interestingly, when Anna died in 1931 at the age of 90, her obituary did not mention her family in Canada or her children who had come with her to Utah. Unfortunately, the records about the first two children are limited, so it is unclear where and when they died. However, there is a record of Elizabeth marrying in Utah in 1878, and in the 1880 U.S. census, she, her husband, and her brother Peter were living in Montana. It appears that Elizabeth and her husband later moved to Colorado, and that Peter was working as a bartender in Montana when he died in 1914.